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Learning to Surf on Maui

Learning to Surf on Maui

06 Sep 2019

The best surf lessons and surf beaches for beginners in West Maui

Known as he’e nalu, or “wave sliding”, surfing is an ancient art in Hawaii that was practiced by Hawaiians for centuries. Surfboards were handmade from sacred trees and heiaus (temples) were constructed to pray for good surfing conditions and to view surfing at prime surf breaks. Surfing as a modern sport was popularized by Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic medalist and avid surfer in Waikiki on the island of Oahu. 

Today, thousands of surfers take to the waves every day across the Hawaiian islands, including on the island of Maui. Maui has countless surf spots that range from easy beginner waves to the likes of Jaws - which draws extreme big wave surfers from around the world. Many surfers would say that a trip to Maui isn’t complete without a paddle out. For visitors that want to learn to surf on Maui, there are several top-rated, family-friendly surf schools in Lahaina and Kaanapali nearby Maui Resort Rentals accommodations. Continue reading for a breakdown of the best surf lessons, surf rentals, plus a short list of the best beginner surf beaches in West Maui.



Surf Lessons


Photo courtesy of Maui Surfer Girls


There are many surf schools that offer surf lessons in Lahaina and a few that offer surf lessons in Kaanapali. Here’s a list of top-rated surf schools we recommend in the West Maui area:

Kaanapali Surf Club offers surf lessons in Kaanapali at Kaanapali Beach. Their busiest season is during the summer, so if you’re visiting during the summer months and want to take a lesson, they recommend booking ahead of time. The company has multiple locations around Kaanapali resorts for convenient access to a variety of rentals. Their kiosk located on Kaanapali Beach in front of the Marriott offers surfboard rentals and SUP rentals. They offer private and group lessons for children and adults, as well as additional ocean tour experiences. 

The Royal Hawaiian Surf Academy is a Hawaiian family owned company based in Lahaina in operation since 1998. They specialize in private and group surf lessons and SUP paddle boarding lessons in Lahaina for children and adults. They are a recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. For more adventurous surfers, they offer a ‘Surfari’ experience where they will take you to a prime surfing location based on your abilities and the conditions of the day. They provide all the gear and snacks you need for a day out in the waves.

Maui Surfer Girls is Maui’s only female owned surf school, founded by Dustin Tester who grew up riding Maui’s waves since the age of 7.  They are also the only surf school which boasts a surfing dog as a team member. They are a recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. They specialize in private and group surf lessons and SUP lessons for children and adults, with a staff of mostly female instructors. They offer popular week-long surf camps for women and teen girls as well. During the busy summer season and around holidays they tend to book up for lessons and camps months in advance, so make sure to reserve ahead of time! Their lessons are generally held at Ukumehame Beach, south of Lahaina. 


Goofy Foot Surf School was founded by surfer Tim Sherer in 1994. The surf school operates out of Lahaina, giving lessons at Lahaina’s Breakwall. The company has a brick and mortar location on Lahain’s front street. They offer private and group surf lessons and SUP lessons for children and adults and surf rentals at their shop. They guarantee that you will ride at least one wave during your lesson, or it’s free! They are a recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence. They offer full day surf camps for children and adults that want more intensive instruction. They can accommodate surfers with special needs. Contact them ahead of time at 808 244 9283. 

Above is by no means a full list of all the surf shops and surf schools in West Maui. Many others that offer lessons, rentals, or a mixture of both. Outrageous Surf offers free surfboard delivery to your hotel or condo through their online rental reservation system, as well as lessons and rentals out of their location on Lahaina’s Front Street. Maui Mike’s Beach House is a surf shop with big personality in downtown Lahaina that offers rentals, gear for purchase, and shave ice and other snacks all under one rainbow colored roof.


Surf Beaches



View our Google map of beginner-friendly West Maui Surf Beaches. There are several good beginner surf spots in the Lahaina and Kaanapali area. If you’re taking a lesson, chances are your surf school will take you out on one of these breaks. If you’re renting a board, check with a local surf shop for conditions and what beaches they may recommend that day. 


Kaanapali Beach

Located walking distance from many of Maui Resort Rentals accommodations, Kaanapali Beach offers bite sized waves that are perfect for beginner surfers. Getting in and out of the water is easy, with a sandy beach and bottom. The waves break relatively close to shore, compared to the other surf spots, which is nice for brand new surfers who aren’t used to long paddle outs. 


Lahaina Harbor Breakwall 

A popular spot for surf schools to give lessons, the Lahaina Harbor Breakwall has a smaller inside break, and larger outside break that can get decent sized waves when the surf is up. Located right next to historic downtown Lahaina, this is a fun spot for beginners, but can get a bit crowded. Access the break by sandy Emily’s Beach immediately south of the harbor breakwall. While the beach is sandy, the surf breaks over a sharp reef. Use caution. Several surf schools and surf rental companies are located within walking distance from this spot. There are public restrooms at the harbor. There is a public shower is in front of the Pacific’O Restaurant on 505 beach, directly south of Emily’s Beach and the harbor. There is a free parking lot at Prison and Front Streets which fill up fast.

Paumana Beach Park 

Located right off the Honoapiilani Hwy, a few minutes south of Lahaina, Paumana Beach is a no frills surf break if you want to get away from the crowds at the Harbor Breakwall and Launiupoko. With waves breaking over a shallow, sharp reef, Paumana is best for the beginner surfer who has some previous experience. It’s a great beach to watch surfers as the waves break close to shore. Watch out for ‘wana’ or black spined sea urchins on the reef. Facilities are basic, with showers, a picnic table, and portable toilets.


Launiupoko Beach

A large, popular family-friendly beach park with BBQ’s, picnic tables, shade trees, shower and bathroom facilities just a few minutes south of Paumana Beach. Launiupoko has some excellent beginner waves, with several different peaks to choose from. A breakwall forms a shallow pool for little ones to splash and play in. Surfers should watch out for the coral reef in the shallow water. 

Ukumehame Beach

Meaning ‘1,000 peaks’, Ukumehame Beach is about 15 minutes south of Lahaina on Honoapiilani Hwy. The paddle out is longer for this surf spot than the other beaches mentioned, but there are many different peaks to choose from. This spot is best for beginner surfers with some experience, or those who are in the company of more advanced surfers. Keep an eye out for the sharp coral reef and ‘wana’, or sea urchins in the shallow water. Amenities include portable toilets, some picnic tables, and BBQ stations. There is parking in the lot and on the road side. The beach is sandy with some nice spots for relaxing. 


Have you taken a surf lesson in West Maui, or have a favorite surf beach or surf shop we missed? We’d love to hear from you about your experience! Drop us a line here.